Bryant gets to the point

He gladly praises backcourt mate

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / June 9, 2010

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Kobe Bryant is expected to make the game-winning shot or the game-changing play. But last night, he was more than happy to talk about teammate Derek Fisher’s late performance that helped the Lakers clinch Game 3 of the NBA Finals at TD Garden.

While Fisher may be the positive voice in the locker room, Bryant acknowledged at times he may be more critical. If there is anyone who can pull Bryant aside to serve as his challenger it is Fisher.

“Yeah, he’s really the one I listen to,’’ Bryant said. “Everybody else is a bunch of young kids. Derek, he and I came in the league together. We spent long nights together as rookies, battling each other, playing full court one-on-one games. You know, we’ve been through it. So he can come to me and say Kobe, ‘You’re [screwing] up.’ We owe that to each other.’’

In this series, Bryant’s offensive production has come in waves but he is not ready to give too much credit to the Celtics. Last night, Bryant scored a game-high 29 points, converting 10 of 29 field goals. In the first half, Bryant hit 5 of 13 from the field and turned a hustle play into points for a teammate. They were hustle plays that kept the momentum building in the Lakers’ favor in their first Finals game on the road.

The Lakers posted a 21-4 run that gave them a 37-20 lead with 9:42 to go in the first half. It was the largest lead of the night for Los Angeles. While the Celtics chipped away at the deficit they managed to get to within 8 points.

A loose ball tipped off the fingers of Kevin Garnett and headed out of bounds, but Bryant sprinted toward the ball. He leaped toward the baseline and slung a pass to Andrew Bynum under the basket as he sailed out of bounds. Bynum converted the layup and was fouled on the play, making the score 46-35. Bryant pumped his fist in front of the Lakers’ bench.

In the series, Bryant is shooting 39 percent (28-71) from the field. Bryant said the Celtics aren’t defending him differently, rather the Lakers are a stronger team.

“I think we’re a better team, so that enables me to continue to be aggressive and put pressure on defenses,’’ Bryant said. “I made shots in stretches, a lot of them were tough shots with three seconds on the clock. We’ve got to do a better job with that. But I think we’re a better team.’’

Forward Ron Artest said hustle plays down the stretch made the difference for the Lakers. So when Bryant may not be able to hit shots at certain moments, other plays are helping the Lakers stay in the game.

“I’m about playing basketball,’’ Artest said. “I only took four shots tonight, but I thought we trusted each other as a team which is more important and I thought that we executed better. I thought that even though I was in early foul trouble, we still executed.’’

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